Decades before Mel Brooks spoofed Nazism in “The Producers, ” Viktor Ullman composed his one-act allegorical opera “The Emperor of Atlantis” as a powerful parody of Hitler and the Third Reich. Composed when Hitler was in power and Jewish composer Ullman was at Theresienstadt, the work was rehearsed there but his captors stopped its would-be performance when they realized its daring subject matter. Ullman would go on to die at Auschwitz, but his long-lost work gets the last laugh, as it were, with a rare one-night-only staging in a synagogue thanks to conductor James Conlon’s championing it after decades of deafening silence. The sextet from Richard Strauss’ “Capriccio” will open the evening, a work composed at the same time but with Strauss getting all of his due and glory while Ullmann was writing his work in a concentration camp. The chamber orchestra will be made up of players from the Chicago Symphony and the Ravinia Festival Orchestras and the singers will include Bryan Gilliam as the Emperor, Alvin Crawford, Ryan McKinley, Steven Spears, Norman Reinhardt, Hanan Alataar and Alison Tupay. The opera will be staged by Ed Berkeley with subtitles. A post-concert discussion on banned Holocaust music with Conlon, Gilliam and Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman will follow the opera. (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.